The video installation The Reading / La Seduta (2017) is the result of a workshop held on Turtle Island (Manhattan- Lanape territory) in February 2017 which included theater-, discursive- and writing exercises. Through an open call, the artist, 10 participants and Tina Zavitsanos engaged in an unscripted tarot reading based on 10 major arcana drawn by Adelita around extraction, value, what we owe each other and how we are implicated in land-use.
In preparation for the tarot reading session Hannah Black, Evan Calder Williams, Julian Noisecat and Elizabeth A. Povinelli were invited to elaborate, in dialogue with the participants, on the 10 cards drawn by Husni-Bey: Extraction, Soil, The Ongoing End, Dirt, Vulnerability, Value, The Colony, Abstract Threat, Simulation, Real Threat. These themes were chosen by the artist through the course of her research on the question of Standing Rock, the indigenous protest against the laying of the Dakota Access Pipeline north of the Standing Rock Reservation, carrying crude oil under the Missouri River, but also reflect on larger issues, such as the permeability of borders, simulation and the function of different perceptions of threat. In turn, Gus Moran, Nia Nottage, Farhan Islam, Nudrat Mahajabin, Katya Dokurova, Charlotte Lewis, Sandra Wazaz, Shao Lei, Amir Akram, Amanata Williams -the participants- authored and performed a series of scenes based on Theater of the Oppressed exercises under Husni-Bey’s guidance.
The cards reflect the operation of the Major Arcana in a standard tarot deck in that they illustrate an archetypal situation that the readers have to interpret in relation to their position and in relation to their chosen question. The Celtic Cross spread, used in this tarot reading session, ascribes a temporal position to each card, such as ‘recent past/ present’, ‘how we see ourselves’, ‘how others see us’, ‘obstacles’, ‘hopes and fears’ and an ‘outcome’. The question, collectively chosen by the participants was ‘what is our spiritual tie to the land?’ and in turn generated debate around what ‘land’ one was referring to, who ‘we’ constituted.
Tarot reading is re-intepreted here as a pedagogical practice, where the reader and the participants collectively craft a narrative to understand, analyse and overcome the obstacles presented to them by their question, either be driven by market forces or by a shared notion of protection and reparation which will have to account for the uneven distribution of the fallout from climate change.
The silicone props snaking through the space fabricated with everyday electronic components echo the props used in the workshop and film, hinting to a prosthetic virtual future of both connectedness and conflict.
The Reading / La Seduta (2017) was commissioned for the Italian Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale.
Thanks to Collezione Taurisano.
Adelita Husni-Bey (b. 1985, Italy) lives in New York. She stages workshops and produces publications, radio broadcasts, archives and exhibitions focused on using collectivist and non-competitive pedagogical models within the framework of urban studies. Her most recent solo exhibitions include the Italian pavilion, Venice, 2017; Sursock Museum, Beirut, 2016; Kadist Foundation, San Francisco, 2015; Gasworks, London, 2012 – and group shows, including 11th Gwangju Biennale, 2016; Triennale di Milano, Italy, 2015 and Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2014.